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Using a credit card to buy one Atomic Fireball? Priceless.

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The night before any holiday where greeting cards are involved, I wind up at the stationery store. My goal is always to spend $1.99 (plus tax). But since I don't carry that kind of cash, I have to whip out the plastic. And whipping out the plastic means I must also grab an extravagant bow, holiday-appropriate candy corn, and a stuffed Mr. T rear-view mirror accessory.

The purchase of these ridiculous items is dictated by a sign taped to the register. Scrawled in green marker on notebook paper with maddeningly frayed edges, the sign says, "Minimum Credit Card Purchase $10."

And according to Bottom Line Personal, a magazine I didn't realize I received, that sign violates the terms and conditions imposed by Visa and MasterCard.

"Did you know that merchants who accept Visa and MasterCard cannot require a minimum purchase? If a merchant insists on a minimum purchase amount, contact your card issuer to complain."

The Consumerist has the actual wording, from Visa:

"Always honor valid Visa cards, in your acceptance category, regardless of the dollar amount of the purchase. Imposing minimum or maximum purchase amounts is a violation."

Now, your local merchants might argue that paying credit card fees on miniscule purchases eliminates their profit margins. And that sounds pretty reasonable. But my point is this -- if you wind up a few dollars short of an arbitrary limit, and you're the kind of person who argues about signs taped to cash registers, you won't have to walk out with unwanted purchases.

Or you can just start carrying around more cash.  Anyone have any good/embarrassing stories of stuff you bought to reach a minimum purchase limit?

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A Simple Way to Charge Your iPhone in 5 Minutes
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Spotting the “low battery” notification on your phone is usually followed by a frantic search for an outlet and further stress over the fact that you may not have time for a full charge. On iPhones, plugging your device into the wall for five minutes might result in only a modest increase of about three percent or so. But this tip from Business Insider Tech may allow you to squeeze out a little more juice.

The trick? Before charging, put your phone in Airplane Mode so that you reduce the number of energy-sucking tasks (signal searching, fielding incoming communications) your device will try and perform.

Next, take the cover off if you have one (the phone might be generating extra heat as a result). Finally, try to use an iPad adapter, which has demonstrated a faster rate of charging than the adapter that comes with your iPhone.

Do that and you’ll likely double your battery boost, from about three to six percent. It may not sound like much, but that little bit of extra juice might keep you connected until you’re able to plug it in for a full charge.

[h/t Business Insider Tech]

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Trying to Save Money? Avoid Shopping on a Smartphone
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Today, Americans do most of their shopping online—but as anyone who’s indulged in late-night retail therapy likely knows, this convenience often can come with an added cost. Trying to curb expenses, but don't want to swear off the convenience of ordering groceries in your PJs? New research shows that shopping on a desktop computer instead of a mobile phone may help you avoid making foolish purchases, according to Co. Design. Ying Zhu, a marketing professor at the University of British Columbia-Okanagan, recently led a study to measure how touchscreen technology affects consumer behavior. Published in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, her research found that people are more likely to make more frivolous, impulsive purchases if they’re shopping on their phones than if they’re facing a computer monitor. Zhu, along with study co-author Jeffrey Meyer of Bowling Green State University, ran a series of lab experiments on student participants to observe how different electronic devices affected shoppers’ thinking styles and intentions. Their aim was to see if subjects' purchasing goals changed when it came to buying frivolous things, like chocolate or massages, or more practical things, like food or office supplies. In one experiment, participants were randomly assigned to use a desktop or a touchscreen. Then, they were presented with an offer to purchase either a frivolous item (a $50 restaurant certificate for $30) or a useful one (a $50 grocery certificate for $30). These subjects used a three-point scale to gauge how likely they were to purchase the offer, and they also evaluated how practical or frivolous each item was. (Participants rated the restaurant certificate to be more indulgent than the grocery certificate.) Sure enough, the researchers found that participants had "significantly higher" purchase intentions for hedonic (i.e. pleasurable) products when buying on touchscreens than on desktops, according to the study. On the flip side, participants had significantly higher purchase intentions for utilitarian (i.e. practical) products while using desktops instead of touchscreens. "The playful and fun nature of the touchscreen enhances consumers' favor of hedonic products; while the logical and functional nature of a desktop endorses the consumers' preference for utilitarian products," Zhu explains in a press release. The study also found that participants using touchscreen technology scored significantly higher on "experiential thinking" than subjects using desktop computers, whereas those with desktop computers demonstrated higher scores for rational thinking. “When you’re in an experiential thinking mode, [you crave] excitement, a different experience,” Zhu explained to Co. Design. “When you’re on the desktop, with all the work emails, that interface puts you into a rational thinking style. While you’re in a rational thinking style, when you assess a product, you’ll look for something with functionality and specific uses.” Zhu’s advice for consumers looking to conserve cash? Stow away the smartphone when you’re itching to splurge on a guilty pleasure. [h/t Fast Company]

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